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A very rare Meissen armorial coffee and tea service with the arms of Taparelli, circa 1735-40. Photo courtesy Bonhams

An Italian museum has secured a lost piece of its founder's legacy from Bonhams thanks to local donations. The piece was to have been auctioned as part of Bonhams million pound London sale of the Marouf Collection in May, but has now been secured by the museum in a private treaty sale - with Bonhams adding a gesture of good will in terms of the commission.

The Meissen armorial coffee and tea service once belonged to Marquis Emanuele Tapparelli d'Azeglio. Marquis Emanuele Tapparelli d'Azeglio (1817-1890) was a leading figure in the history of the Museo Civico di Torino. His diplomatic career took him to the most important capitals of Europe, where he came into contact with international antiques dealers, connoisseurs and collectors. From 1848 to 1868 he lived in London, which was then at the heart of the cultural debate about the decorative arts. His association with the great collectors and scholars of his time gave him a passion for collecting objects. Under his direction (1879-1890), the Museo Civico of Turin expanded its collection of the applied arts, following the example of the V&A in London. Upon d'Azeglio's return to Turin, he donated his entire collection of Italian majolica and porcelain, to which his collection of engraved gold glassware and painted glass was added after his death. The armorial service however remained in his family on his request, and was sold at auction in 1903.

That d'Azeglio wanted to keep the Meissen Coffee service within the family shows the keen personal interest he took in it. The exquisite pieces were actually initially something of a mystery to the Marquis, who was intrigued by the porcelain when a famous relative, the statesman and political reformer, Massimo d'Azeglio, painted it as part of a still-life. Emanuele d'Azeglio began to investigate how it had come into the family's possession, and went to great lengths in his research, making several trips around Europe in aid of this.

The curator at the Turin Museum, Dr Cristina Maritano found that the service was most likely ordered as a gift for Carlo Francesco Taparelli (†1779), Comte di Lagnasco. He was abbot of the Abbey of Saint Michel du Trèport in Normandie, and from 1732 Minister Plenipotentiary of the Court of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland at the Papal court in Rome. When he died, his possessions went to his relations in Turin. This legacy included the Meissen coffee service to be auctioned at Bonhams April Sale.

Nette Megens, specialist of European Ceramics at Bonhams says: "To our knowledge this is the first case of An Italian museum using crowd funding to fund acquisitions. We love taking objects back to the where they belong, and for this Meissen service, with its connection to the Tapparelli d'Azeglio family, the Palazzo Madama seems like home."

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A very rare Meissen armorial coffee and tea service with the arms of Taparelli, circa 1735-40. Photo courtesy Bonhams

Each piece painted with the arms of Taparelli, and a brown-edged palm frond and leafy branch tied with a red ribbon on the reverse, further painted with scattered indianische Blumen, the rims with gilt, blue and red borders of foliate scrollwork, the coffee pot with a bearded mask below the spout, the teapot with animal spout, comprising:
a coffee pot and cover;
a teapot and cover;
a rectangular tea canister and cover;
a milk jug and cover;
a sugar bowl and cover; 
a slop bowl;
a teapot stand;
six single-handled beakers and saucers;
twelve teabowls and saucers;
in a later fitted case, the coffee pot and cover: 21cm highcrossed swords marks in underglaze-blue (and in blue on the tea canister), impressed Drehers' marks for Johann Gottlob Pietzsch, Johann Gottlieb Kühnel, Caspar Meißner, Johann Christoph Schumann, Johnann Christoph Pietzsch and Christian Meynert (48)

Literature: Ulrich Pietsch, Passion for Meissen (2010), no. 81

In an article which will be published in the journal of the Palazzo Madama of July 2013, Dr. Christina Maritano, curator of the Palazzo Madama in Turin, will describe the history of the service. Together with Dr Johanna Lessmann, she re-established the ties between the director and founder of the porcelain collections at Palazzo Madama, Emanuele Taparelli D'Azeglio (1816-1890), and this coffee and tea service with previously unknown coat of arms. A chocolate beaker from the service features in a painting painted in 1843 by Massimo d'Azeglio, the famous statesman and a meritorious painter, now kept in the Civic Gallery of Modern Art in Turin. 

The service was most likely ordered as a gift for Carlo Francesco Taparelli (?-1779), Conte di Lagnasco, abbot of the Abbey of Saint Michel du Trèport in Normandie, and from 1732 Minister Plenipotentiary of the Court of Augustus II, Elector of Saxony and King of Poland at the Papal court in Rome.

It was Emanuele D'Azeglio himself who retraced the history of this service, and another earlier service with a marital coat of arms of the Taparelli family. He went to great lenghts in his studies, even travelling to Dresden for his research. Upon his death, d'Azeglio left his extraordinary ceramics and glass collection to the Palazzo Madama, where he had been a director, but did not gift the two armorial services. They were passed on to his family and were sold at public auction in 1903.